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Amid expectations that the ongoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) enforced in “NCR Plus” would be eased starting this Monday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has announced the continued implementation of programs to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the public transport sector.
DOTr reiterated that it would continue to strictly implement the following health and safety protocols approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EIF) for those riding in public utility vehicles: 1) Always wear a face mask and face shield; 2) Do not talk and accept phone calls; 3) Do not eat inside the vehicle; 4) PUVs must always maintain proper and sufficient ventilation; 5) Disinfect the vehicle regularly; 6) Individuals with Covid-19 symptoms are not allowed to ride PUVs; 7) Always follow proper physical distancing. Any driver or operator who will be caught violating LTFRB rules will be penalized and/or his/her Certificate of Public Convenience or Provisional Authority revoked.
DOTr Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Reinier Paul Yebra explained why Secretary Arthur Tugade has ordered intensified operations against illegal transport practices. He said that, while Tugade understands the commuting public’s urgent need for mobility, he remains “very much concerned” of the health and safety risks these illegal modes of transport posed to the public, such as when nearly 80 individuals turned out to be Covid-positive upon entry in the Bicol Region.
Yebra emphasized that violation of the minimum public health standards is punishable by a 1 to 6-month imprisonment and a fine of P20,000 to P50,000. For colorum vans, the fine is P200,000 while for colorum buses, the penalty is P1 million. As for the case of the truck involved in the viral “human smuggling” video, the driver may also be criminally liable for violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which is punishable with 15 years up to life imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Land Transportation Office (LTO) Chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante reported that almost 500 personnel from their Central Office, NCR East and West, Regions 4A and 5 have inspected around 12,000 vehicles, resulting in the apprehension of 78 vehicles, wherein 51 were colorum and the rest violated IATF and DOTr health and safety protocols. “Through our visual inspection, these vehicles raised suspicions while they were traversing our national roads, and they were shown to have clearly violated existing rules, upon which they were flagged down. It is not our intention to delay or deny legitimate transport operations for passengers and cargo,” Galvante explained.
The LTO Chief added that the owner and two drivers of the closed van-type truck packed with human passengers as shown in the viral video were already identified. They were issued a show cause order and asked to report at LTO Region 5. The violators were also meted a 90-day preventive suspension, their licenses and the truck’s plates confiscated.
Within NCR Plus, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Special Concerns Manny Gonzales reported on the deployment of I-ACT enforcers in the Edsa Carousel and at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) for the intensified operations against violators of health and safety protocols in public transportation.
DOTr’s Road Transport Sector also announced during the April 8 virtual media briefing the implementation of various programs such as opening of more PUV routes, the kilometer fee rate adjustment for PUV operators, and free rides for health workers and essential commuters, particularly within NCR Plus—Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna, and Rizal where the ECQ is being implemented until today, pending further notice.
LTFRB OIC Board Member Zona Russet Tamayo reported on the opening of Provincial Bus Routes, as well as more PUV routes in Metro Manila in line with the route rationalization plan. She said that a total of 250 routes and a total of 4,400 units were the proposed additional PUVs to be opened effective next week. Tamayo, however, said that the additional PUBs entering Metro Manila are subject to approval and requirements of the concerned local governments. The official also reported that as of March 2021, 76 percent of pre-Covid data for public transportation in Metro Manila have already been allowed to resume operations during the general community quarantine (GCQ). She added that there are now a total of 745 open and operational routes and 53,441 units including taxi, TNVs, shuttle service, and trucks for hire.

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